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Hawn accepted the Activist Award from Child Mind Institute for her work in mental health awareness for children

By Eric Todisco
May 02, 2019 02:03 PM
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Goldie Hawn has achieved success in her career as an Academy Award-winning actress, but long before her days of Hollywood fame, she says she was just your average girl struggling with anxiety.

Hawn, longtime love of Kurt Russell and mother to 3, including Oliver and Kate Hudson, was honored on Wednesday night in the Child Mind Institute‘s 5th Annual Change Maker Awards. Upon accepting her Activist Award, which was presented by Katie Couric, she reflected on how her anxiety as a child transformed her to become a huge advocate for child mental health, which includes founding the Goldie Hawn Foundation and it’s non-profit program, MindUp.

“I lived with anxiety as a little girl,” Hawn, 73, told the audience. “I thought the Russians were going to bomb us. I thought I could die without ever kissing a boy. I suffered anxiety every time I heard a siren.”

The Child Mind Institute 2019 Change Maker Awards
Credit: Jamie McCarthy via Getty Images

She went on to say her fears never completely subsided, even as she began performing on the NBC comedy Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In.

“The next thing I know I’m doing a TV show and I was having nonspecific anxiety attacks,” she explained. “I didn’t know why I was feeling anxious or what was wrong with me, when I would go into public and feeling like I could vomit. I didn’t know why I wanted to sit on a couch while I was supposedly becoming something that everyone was so excited for me.”

Hawn added, “I suffered for about a year…[then] I took charge and saw a doctor,” she added. “But that was the time when I was 21 and I realized that I had a mind, that I was going to fix that mind and I was going to make sure I knew and understood everything that was happening and why it was happening.”

The Child Mind Institute 2019 Change Maker Awards
Credit: Jamie McCarthy via Getty Images

After seeking the needed help for her anxiety, there was one goal in Hawn’s life she was always focused on achieving: Happiness. She says she finally gained it after discovering meditation.

“I went for meditation because it was the thing to do, and when I did, it was like I can’t ever explain to you—it was the most joyful experience I’ve ever had,” she said. “I felt like I returned back to my deepest part, to my heart, to my joy. It just hit this seed of joy that I always had as a young girl. Because all I ever wanted to be was happy. That was my goal.”

The Child Mind Institute 2019 Change Maker Awards
Credit: Jamie McCarthy via Getty Images

In addition to celebrating Hawn and the other award recipients for their work in mental health awareness, Child Mind Institute is launching it’s 3rd annual #MyYoungerSelf campaign, which includes actors like Gillian Anderson, Ray Romano and Isaac Mizrahi sharing personal videos of advice to their younger selves.

Hawn’s foundation, The Goldie Hawn Foundation, has introduced a neuroscience based program called Mind Up, which gives children the knowledge and tools they need to manage stress, regulate emotions and face the challenges of the 21st century with optimism, resilience and compassion. Hawn has found it to be one of the program’s greatest achievements yet.

“It’s amazing, these kids are able to manage their stress,” she told PEOPLE before accepting her award. “They realize their thinking is what creates their formality, so knowing how your brain works is such an asset. It’s like, ‘Oh my God, that’s my muscle I know how to work it.’”

“That’s what we are giving kids. It isn’t just medicine or mediation,” she added. “It calms them down, and that is everything. And they are in control. I just want to see kids smile and live safely.”